A familiar foe, Vázquez does it all vs. Yanks

Former Red Sox catcher delivers clutch two-run knock, guides staff to three-hit shutout

October 23rd, 2022

NEW YORK -- Astros manager Dusty Baker made it known after Saturday’s 5-0 victory in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium that Martín Maldonado isn’t the team’s only great catcher. The skipper pointed out that Christian Vázquez can hold his own, too.

Leave it to the former Red Sox backstop to cause the Yankees headaches throughout the game. Vázquez did it all against the Bronx Bombers, helping the Astros inch closer toward their fourth World Series appearance in the past six years. He drove in two insurance runs in the sixth inning that put the game out of reach while calling a great game behind the plate. In fact, Houston’s pitching staff held New York to just three hits in the shutout.

“He had an outstanding game,” Baker said of Vázquez. “He called a good game, a great game. So it's great to have two outstanding catchers.”

Vázquez worked his magic behind the plate by guiding winning pitcher Cristian Javier, who pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-hit ball. The one knock came in the fourth inning, when Giancarlo Stanton doubled to right field with one out. The Yankees didn’t collect another hit until the ninth, when reliever Bryan Abreu allowed two singles, both with two outs, before striking out Josh Donaldson to end the game.

“Vázquez was unbelievable behind the plate,” said Alex Bregman. “I thought he called a great game. I thought he got Javy to execute, and Javy did a great job of executing.”

In the fifth inning, Vázquez’s arm came into play. It appeared the veteran catcher had an idea that Harrison Bader was going to run on him. After leading off the inning with a walk, Bader tried to steal second and was easily thrown out. Bader was hoping the Yankees would ask for a review, but they did not.

“Yeah, it was a big out for us,” Vázquez said. “I think we shut down the momentum from them. It was awesome. It was very emotional and very fun.”

Vázquez is very familiar with the Yankees. He played for the Red Sox for over seven years before he was traded to the Astros at the Trade Deadline. In 85 career regular-season games against New York, Vázquez has batted .242 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs.

“I’ve seen them a lot with Boston, and then it's easier to call a game when you know everybody and the pitching staff we have here,” Vázquez said.

That familiarity paid off in the sixth inning when Vázquez faced right-hander Lou Trivino. Yankees manager Aaron Boone was looking for weak contact after New York ace Gerrit Cole left the game with the bases loaded and no outs. But the move backfired on Boone.

Trey Mancini hit a sacrifice fly to make it a 3-0 game, before Vázquez lofted a two-run single to hand the Astros a commanding five-run lead.

“I saw that at-bat with Mancini, and [Trivino] was throwing a lot of sliders, so I was sitting on it, and it was a good swing, and it was a big knock for the team,” Vázquez said.

Said Boone: “I was hoping to get Gerrit through that [inning]. I felt like he threw the ball incredibly well. I got Trivino up just in case he needed some help there with the bottom righties that we liked him against. But obviously ... it didn't work for us.”

The Astros now have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and need one more victory to advance to the World Series.

“... We can't be more happy than to be here and play with this team. Great, great staff,” Vázquez said.